Activists in Ethiopia are hoping the country will become less hostile to LGBTI people after a replacement is chosen for Abune Paulos, the homophobic patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who died last week at age 76.
LGBTI advocates know, however, that an equally anti-gay religious leader might be installed in his place.
Abune Paulos, who once termed homosexuality “the pinnacle of immorality,” joined with the anti-gay advocacy group United for Life Ethiopia a few years ago, seeking a constitutional amendment against homosexuality.
Under Ethiopian law, homosexual activities can be punished with prison sentences of one to 10 years, and up to 15 years for “aggravated” same-sex practices.
Abune Paulos and United for Life Ethiopia led a campaign that urged the government to impose stricter sentences, up to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
He was president of the World Council of Churches and served as an honorary president of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest multi-religious coalition advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace.
Some members of Ethiopia’s LGBT community believe that the death of Abune Paulos will weaken the anti-homosexuality movement, especially if the next patriarch is a relatively open bishop about homosexuality, at least willing to discuss on how to address the HIV vulnerability of LGBTs in Ethiopia.
But some believe that the next patriarch will be Abune Samuel, an extremely homophobic bishop who wrote a book in 2009 decrying the evils of homosexuality.
Along the same lines, Abune Paulos told reporters in 2008, referring to homosexuality, “For people to act in this manner, they have to be dumb, stupid like animals.”
“We strongly condemn this behavior. They have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated against. They have to be given a lesson,” he said.
He also said, “Homosexuality is an unnatural act and we call on international bodies to repent from their sponsorship of legalizing what is a wrong and harmful as well as requesting foreign body to refrain from attempting to subvert the sacred traditions of the Ethiopian people by threats and political pressure.”
In any case, rest in peace, our patriarch!
- Abune Paulos: 1935-2012 (ethiotribune.wordpress.com)
- Ethiopia remembers patriarch Abune Paulos (bikyamasr.com)
- Abune Paulos: 5th Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (danielberhane.wordpress.com)
- Ethiopian Patriarch Abune Paulos Dies in Addis Ababa (02varvara.wordpress.com)
- Ethiopian Patriarch Dies (voanews.com)